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Helping People Age with Dignity

The estate planning challenges of airline miles

In estate planning, one thing it can be very important to be aware of is if any of your assets raise special estate planning issues. One special estate planning issue some assets raise is unpredictability when it comes to the ability to pass on the asset upon death. One asset that has such unpredictability connected to it are airline miles.

A person's frequent flier miles can be a very valuable asset. Some individuals have thousands of dollars worth of such miles. When a person has accumulated a substantial amount of miles, one thing they may desire is that their miles be passed on to loved ones at the time of their death. However, determining if you can pass on your miles upon your death can be quite difficult.

One reason for this is that airlines can differ significantly when it comes to what policies they have regarding airline miles and a person's death. Some airlines outright prohibit the passing on of airline miles through wills or other methods. Other airlines have different policies, such as policies that allow for the passing on of miles on a case-by-case basis or which provide a specific procedure through which a passing on can be done. Thus, what options you have for leaving airline miles to loved ones can depend greatly on what airline the miles are with.

Another thing that can make airline miles rather unpredictable things when it comes to estate planning is that sometimes an airline's actual practices regarding what happens with airline miles when a person passes away differ from its written policies. Thus, a person's options regarding leaving airline miles to loved ones may not be clear without speaking directly with the airline about the topic.

Also, airlines sometimes change policies on this topic. So an option a person once had regarding leaving airline miles can sometimes suddenly disappear or change significantly.

Assets that have unpredictability in their after-death treatment, like airline miles, can pose some major estate planning challenges. Estate planning attorneys can help individuals understand what courses of action they can take in their wills and other estate planning efforts when it comes to assets that raise estate planning challenges and provide them with guidance when it comes to such assets.

Source: Money, "What Happens to Your Airline Miles When You Die?," Kara Brandeisky, July 31, 2015

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